The words “homeschool uniforms” can evoke strong emotions in some people. I’m not writing to convince or to un-convince you to use a uniform in the home eduction of your children. However, I would like to offer are a few observations and our personal experience, in hopes that you will neither dismiss the idea nor fully embrace it without further thought and prayer.
Some may feel that, by dressing “in uniform” with the other members of the family, they are downplaying their individual uniqueness. I prefer to think that using a uniform, either during school hours or all the time, allows uniqueness of personality to shine without the clothing distractions. Could your children’s talents and abilities shine brighter if the sibling playing field were leveled a little? Would uniforms do that at your house? Maybe, maybe not.
In the secular world there are uniforms everywhere: sports teams, girl and boy scouts, clubs, work uniforms, and so on. You are identified as part of the team because of what you wear. And yet in our families, where we should be striving for teamwork and togetherness, it seems that no one wants to be recognized as belonging to one another. Would your family feel more like a team if they dressed the part?
On dressing for success:
Along that line, we usually dress for what we are about to do: sports clothing and accessories to go play soccer or basketball, a uniform for work, a dress code and instruments to participate in an orchestra concert, jeans and a t-shirt to cut grass or milk cows. Similarly we would not don a swimsuit for a day of snow skiing. I think you get the point. Somewhere deep down inside of us we know that dressing suitably to the task at hand aids in our success. I would submit that education is not an exception to that rule. How could dressing for school change your approach to home education or your child’s attitude about his studies?
Some perhaps would find the cost of uniforms prohibitive. Perhaps. But consider that if you choose a simple yet classic uniform for your home school, you will need approximately 3 sets per child per week. And the clothing can be handed down from one child to the next. The child then only needs two to three “play” outfits and one “dress up” outfit to complete his day to day wardrobe. It might not cost as much as you think. Have you ever compared costs of uniforms vs. everyday clothing for your children?
On logistics and modesty:
Using uniforms could cut down considerably on laundry, the work of putting clothes away, and on closet space. The uniforms could be made (if you are or know a seamstress) to your specifications. Uniforms could at least make school shopping easier and faster. Could uniforms simplify school shopping, chores, or routines at your house? Could it be part of the answer to the modesty question for your girls?
We have chosen to use school uniforms, at least for the time being for several reasons:
1. We live in a Mexico, where schools (both public and private) all have uniforms, and where home education is not yet well known. Having a uniform for our homeschool allows our children to be less of an “oddity” in our society, and also avoids lots of questions if we should need to take them with us on an errand during school hours.
2. We use khaki pants (for boys) and khaki skirts (for girls) with a unisex polo shirt of a solid dark color. This is cost effective for us because the children can pass the shirts down from one to the next regardless of sex, and it cuts down on shopping time as we can get all the shirts in one stop. It’s a classic look and the dark color polo is kind to the inevitable food and marker stains. We also chose to get ours embroidered with our homeschool name to make it more formal and “uniform” looking.
3. Our children are third-culture kids, and they already feel like they “don’t belong” in lots of areas. They don’t look like their darker skinned friends. They speak two languages naturally, while their friends here speak one and their cousins in the US speak another. They don’t go to public schools, and the list goes on and on. Because of this we chose to name our homeschool and design our own logo, which we get embroidered on the shirts and use on their school folders and other things. This gives them a sense of identity, something to be a part of and be proud of, and it has been a healthy choice for our family.
4. Our children were struggling to keep their closets and rooms neat. But when we decided to cut down the wardrobe to their school clothes and three or four other outfits, their clothes became manageable and not so much of a frustration or daily battle to keep the area tidy. It also cut down on our laundry considerably, and it took away the “What do I wear today?” angst that one of our children in particular was struggling with. If it’s a school day, we get up and put school clothes on. No decision necessary.
5. Modesty is something that we strive for. But especially in the area where we live, finding clothing for a girl that is loose and long and modest is a special challenge. The uniform helped in this area as well, in that I could decide the length of the girls’ uniform and wasn’t subjected to culture’s whims in that regard. And have you ever held up a boys polo shirt to a girls polo of the same size? Even for the small elementary girls the shirts are cut with huge body hugging curves, teaching them subconsciously that tight is normal from the time they’re young. By choosing to use polo shirts I can buy them all in the boys department and dress my girls more modestly. When they are wearing them, no one can tell if I bought them in the girls’ or boys’ department. As my girls get older, I am anticipating less of a clothing struggle with them because we have laid this foundation and set the expectation for long and loose modesty from their younger years.
If you have a homeschool uniform, you (and your children) should know why you have one. And if you don’t, you should be willing to consider it, until you can rule it out as something that definitely would not help you reach your homeschooling goals. And while I’m not sure we will always use them, I do know that for now, in our family, the homeschool uniform has been a great blessing.
I know many may have strong opinions about this topic. I’d be interested in hearing your comments for or against homeschool uniforms. Just remember to keep the conversation edifying.
Katie has played teacher for as long as she can remember. With a master’s degree in education and experience teaching public school system, she now teaches her 4 children at home. She is also developing a curriculum for Spanish speaking home educating families. Katie promotes home education in her blogs Educando en el Hogar and Paradise Praises, and resides in Mexico, where her family serves as church planting missionaries.